October 7th: Alan Thomas (Tilburg) ‘High on the Hog? What is Higher Order in the Higher Order Global States Theory of Consciousness?’


Centre for Philosophical Psychology, Antwerp University 

18:00 Lange Winkjelstraat 2000 Antwerp

‘Between Perception and Action’ Project


Van Gulick has developed, as a new option in the dialectic between First Order Representationalist and Higher Order Theories of consciousness (in either HOP or HOT variants) a view that explains consciousness in terms of higher order global states (HOGS). The HOGS approach takes the distinction between lower order and higher order states to be a matter of degree, not of kind: consciousness involves a lower order state being integrated into a more global representation. This paper considers two interpretations of HOGS theory, one reductionist and one non-reductionist. It is argued that while, in one sense, HOGS theory shows that the language of “levels” is an interpretative artefact, it is an indispensable fiction in theorising about consciousness. Van Gulick plausibly specifies various cognitive tasks that are only discharged at his “higher order” level; this paper focuses not on the (lower order) informational basis from which the concepts deployed in these tasks are extracted, but on the (higher order) resources that the system has to have in order to extract them. I will argue that this supports a non-reductionist reading of the HOGS project.

Alan Thomas ‘Liberal Republicanism, Cosmopolitanism and the Idea of Europe’ September 18 – Postponed

This event has been postponed. More details to follow shortly.

Sylvia Berryman (UBC) TiLPS Seminar 21st June 16:45 – 18:30



‘Archimedes and the Mechanical Hypothesis: How Many Philosophers Does It Take to Haul a Ship?’

Dante Building Room 119

It is sometimes said that the philosophers of late antiquity falied to anticipate the ‘mechanical philosophy’ of the 17th century because they saw mechanics as a deceptive art and not a science.  I have argued that this is not so, and that traces of a ‘mechanical hypothesis’ can be seen in late antiquity.  A question resurfaces, then, as to why this failed to impress natural philosophers.  I reconstruct a systematic argument against the generality of ‘bottom up’ explanation from a passage in Simplicius.  The inability to account for chemical change served as a principled reason for acknowledging limits to the explanatory power of mechanics.

Hanno Sauer ‘The Responsibility Attribution Error’, May 15, 16:45-18:30 DZ10


In this paper, we argue that the so-called Knobe-Effect constitutes an error. There is now a wealth of data confirming that people are highly prone to what has also come to be known as the ‘side-effect effect’. That is, when attributing psychological states – such as intentionality, foreknowledge, and desiring – as well as other agential features – such as causal control – people typically do so to a greater extent when the action under consideration is evaluated negatively. There are a plethora of models attempting to account for this effect. We hold that the central question of interest is whether the effect represents a competence or an error in judgment. We offer a systematic argument for the claim that the burden of proof regarding this question is on the competence theorist, and develop our own account based on the notion of the reactive attitudes. This model can accommodate both the idea that these sorts of judgments are fundamentally normative and that they often constitute errors.

Machteld Geuskens ‘Truth and Trust’ May 1, 16:45-18:30 DZ152




It is argued in this paper that truthfulness and trust are both fundamental values of epistemic cooperation. Epistemic cooperation is understood as the joint endeavor of members of a group to increase the number of true beliefs had by the group.  In showing the fundamental role of these two epistemic values it is argued that irresolvable philosophical puzzles arise when they come to conflict. They need careful balancing. It is assumed throughout that epistemic cooperation is itself basic for two reasons. The first is that any form of cooperation involves epistemic exchanges (to the extent that speaking and caring for the truth may, as much as trust, also become a moral value). Secondly – following Craig’s genealogical account of  the concept of knowledge – that concept presupposes social relations and epistemic cooperation.

This general framework is applied to the specific case of how best to understand testimony:  how could it be epistemically responsible to take  someone’s word that p as sole basis for coming to have the belief that p?  The only adequate solution is one that helps restore the balance between trust and truth: trust in a given case is justified, if and only if the speaker is trustworthy, i.e. highly reliable about the matter p. In effect, this is to deny that we uphold trust to the extent that it would trump the value we accord to securing that our beliefs are true. The balance between evidentialist and “telling” accounts of testimony reflect the general tension between trust and truthfulness.

April 12, 2013 Workshop on Free Market Fairness, Tilburg University


A one day workshop at Tilburg University on the themes arising from John Tomasi’s book, Free Market Fairness, Princeton University Press, 2012. Professor Tomasi will give the keynote address after a discussion of the main theses of his book by political philosophers from the Netherlands, the UK, the USA and Switzerland.

Academics and postgraduate researchers are welcome to attend: there will be a registration fee of 40 euros that covers lunch and beverages over the course of the day. (If you do not require either beverages or meals – there are catering venues on campus – and you are a student or staff member of a university in the Netherlands, attendance is free.)

If you plan to attend please e-mail a.thomas [at] uvt.nl

Venue: The Ruth First Room

Cobbenhagen Building, Tilburg University Campus, Room C 186

Campus Map here.

09:30 – 10:00 Alan Thomas (Tilburg) ‘Rawls and Tomasi on Robust Economic Liberty’.

10:00 – 1o:15 Discussion of paper 1

10:15 – 10:45 Waheed Hussain (Wharton School, U Penn) ‘Self-Authorship and Recognition in a Market Democracy’.

10:45 – 11:00 Discussion of paper 2

11:00 – 11:15 Coffee break

11:15 – 11:45 Ryan Muldoon (U. Penn) tbc.

11:45 – 12:00 Discussion of paper 3

12:00 – 13:30 Lunch at Tilbury Restaurant

13:30 – 14:00 Martin O’Neill (York) ‘Justification, Reciprocity and Maximin: Saving Justice from Neoclassical Liberalism’.

14:00 – 14:15 Discussion of paper 4

14:15 – 14:45 Lisa Herzog, (Goethe University, Frankfurt) ‘Preaching to the Lockean Choir? Human Motivation and the Feasibility of Economic Utopias’.

14:45 – 15:00 Discussion of paper 5

15:00 – 15:30 Thad Williamson (Jepson School of Leadership Studies) ‘Exploitation of labor, positional goods, and political economy: three challenges to/for Free Market Fairness’

15:30 – 15:45 Discussion of paper 6

15:45 – 16:00 Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:00 Keynote Lecture, John Tomasi (Brown University)

17:00 – 18:00 Round Table Discussion: The Market Democratic Research Programme

19:00 Conference Dinner, Meesters Restaurant

Moral Particularism and Methods in Ethics, Zurich, 14th June 2013

A workshop on moral particularism at the University of Zurich. Schedule here.

‘Why Practical Wisdom Cannot Be Principled’

Alan Thomas

There are many aspects of intelligent action in finite and limited reasoners such as ourselves that are best explained by appeal to epistemic virtue. Adam Morton (Bounded Thinking, OUP, 2012) has convincingly made the case that part of intelligence is the self-management of our own limitations. Central aspects of this self-management not only are not, but could not, be regulated by principles. Morton’s account of the epistemic virtue of prudent self-management is compared to Julia Annas’s conception of the expression of intelligence in virtue to make the case that a cognitivist account of virtue necessarily involves the rejection of any conception of practical wisdom as principled (Annas, Intelligent Virtue,  OUP, 2011). The paper concludes by examining the generalist response that while the true moral principles require a theory of relevance, that theory need not be principled (so the generalist can accept all of the foregoing with equanimity). Not even that response gets the generalist off the hook: a conception of the principles grounding evaluative standards as limited in number, compact and indeterminate invites a far wider range of errors in implementation than a particularist conception of practical reasoning as the direct application of intelligence to situations.

Workshop with Richard Moran June 11, 2013


A one day workshop at Tilburg University on the philosophy of Richard Moran, hosted by the Ethics Research Stream of TiLPS.

Venue: Tias-Nimbas Business School Room 005

09:45 Registration

10:00 – 10:30 Machteld Geuskens and Alan Thomas (Tilburg) ‘Testimony, Trust and Second Personal Reasons’

10:30 – 10:45 Discussion of Paper 1

10:45 – 11:00 Coffee

11:00 – 11:30 Sophie Djigo (CURAPP-ESS)  ‘Belief as cognitive and practical commitment’

11:30 – 11:45 Discussion of Paper 2

11:45 – 12:15 Filip Buekens (Tilburg) ‘Testimony’

12:15 – 12:30 Discussion of Paper 3

12:30 – 2:00 Lunch, Tilbury’s Restaurant

2:00 – 2:30 Edward Harcourt (Oxford University) ‘Happenings Outside the Moral Self’

2:30 – 2:45 Discussion of Paper 4

2:45 – 3:15 Kathryn Brown (Tilburg) ‘Moran on Scepticism: Problems of Realism in Nineteenth Century Painting’

3:15 – 3:30 Discussion of Paper 5

3:30 – 3:45 Coffee

3:45 – 4:15 Valerie Aucouturier (Brussels Free University) ‘Authority and Self-knowledge’

4:15 – 4:30 Discussion of Paper 6

4:30 – 5:30 Keynote Address: Richard Moran (Harvard)

5:30 – 5:45 Closing Remarks

6:30 Conference Dinner, Meesters Restaurant

The workshop is open to all academic staff and postgraduate students: there will be a registration fee of 20 euros for the day for those in full time employment, 10 euros for students and the unwaged. The registration fee is payable in cash on the day. Registration will cover tea/coffee, but not lunch or dinner (there are several catering venues on campus). Please e-mail the workshop organiser Alan Thomas if you plan to attend at a.thomas [@] uvt.nl

April 17th Wednesday 16:45 – 18:30 DZ152 Alan Thomas (Tilburg)

‘McDowell on Transcendental Arguments, Scepticism and Error Theory’


ImageJohn McDowell has recently argued that his earlier attempt therapeutically to dissolve the challenge from scepticism needs revision. We can, instead, go sufficiently deeply into the sceptic’s motivations to identify assumptions that she makes that offer the basis for a transcendental argument that undermines radical scepticism about our knowledge of the external world. In this new strategy McDowell’s disjunctivism (non-conjunctivism) now plays a local and tactical role. This paper examines this change of strategy and argues that the only puzzle about McDowell’s position is the “modesty” he claims for his results. An analogy is described between McDowell’s case against the sceptic and one response to an error theory about ethics. A general commitment to interpretationism shows that the interpretation of all ethical thought and talk as truth-apt, but globally false, is unstable. Similarly, the sceptic’s description of all our perceptual states as apt to be perceptual knowledge, but globally false, is unstable. Scepticism arises from the original description of our epistemic situation as a predicament; as resting on a failure to appreciate that there is a class of mental states for which the idea of “having the world in view” is constitutive of the class.

March 27th Wednesday 16:45 – 18:30 DZ119 John van Houdt (Tilburg)

‘A Syntax of Action: Rationality and Fichte’s Aufforderung